Chief Executive Officer
Joe Woolley has been CEO of the Nashville LGBT Chamber since August 2018. Since taking the helm, Joe has been relentless in the pursuit of excellence for the Nashville LGBT Chamber leveraging the Chamber members, community partners, staff, and board of directors.
Under Joe’s leadership, the Chamber membership has grown 44% to 500+ members. The Chamber garnered national recognition for their advocacy of our members at a local and state level, and finalized LGBT Business Enterprise recognition by Metro Nashville. Additionally, the Chamber received two years of metro appropriations to lessen the disparity of LGBT-owned businesses gaining contracts, and ensuring member representation during the NFL Draft and other major events taking place in the city. At the state level, advocacy against anti-LGBT legislation is a priority and passion for Joe. Under Joe’s leadership, in 2015 the Chamber helped form Tennessee Thrives, a statewide business coalition against discriminatory legislation. In 2019 the Chamber organized and lead another large business coalition that vocally spoke out against the discriminatory legislation filed and pushed to keep Tennessee “open and equal.” Joe pushes that this is key to continued business growth as discriminatory laws make it hard for businesses to attract and retain talent.
Joe’s dedication to the organization began long before becoming CEO serving four years on the board of directors including two years as President. Joe has a long history of LGBT advocacy, he was one of five founders of the Tennessee Equality Project back in 2004. He is a mayor-appointed board member for Nashville Education Community and Arts Television (NECAT). He was chosen for the 2018-19 class of Leadership Nashville and is currently on the leadership team for the current class. He also serves on the Nashville Area Chamber Partnership 2030 advisory committee, helping shape the economic direction of the city for the next 10 years. He is most proud of the work he does on the Mayor’s Small Business Advisory Council that was responsible for the Equal Business Opportunity legislation and the executive order that made Metro the first city in the South and the 13th in the nation to recognize LGBT certified businesses in city procurement. In 2019 he was named as a Power 100 by the Nashville Business Journal as a “connector” in the city. Joe was named at the start of 2020 as a 40 Under 40 by both; Business Equality Magazine as a top national LGBTQ leader making an impact in the United States, and also by the Nashville Business Journal as an under 40 leader in Nashville. The Business Journal has also highlighted him in their “The Boss” series where he shares his story of buying Jeff Bezos a drink.
Joe has lived in Nashville since the year 2000, when at the age of 18 he moved from Twin Falls, Idaho after graduating from high school. He supported himself after moving and started Belmont University in 2002. He was the first person in his family to ever attend college and Joe graduated in 2006 as the first graduate of Belmont’s New Century Journalism Program. He moved to New York City after being accepted in the International Radio Television Society (IRTS) Fellowship Program where he worked for the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, having written his thesis on young people getting their news from non-traditional news sources. After the fellowship, Joe was hired by CBS News and was a producer on the foreign desk covering the War in Iraq and working with Katie Couric when she anchored the Evening News.
Joe loves to workout, travel, and to entertain friends in his home in the Belmont neighborhood of Nashville, that he shares with his husband Jim Schmidt and their dog Spooner.
Pronouns: she, her, hers
Lauren Bland is a Nashville transplant, born and raised in Lexington, Kentucky. She attended the University of Louisville, where she was active on the executive board of the student LGBT organization and the local rugby club. Before coming to Nashville, she worked at a Catholic elementary school in Lexington where she taught preschool and worked with the administration on fundraising, development, and event planning. Lauren accepted the Membership Manager position with the Nashville LGBT Chamber in January 2019. In her time with the Chamber, she has worked to grow certified LGBT-owned businesses, maintain memberships, build relationships with the community, and orchestrate monthly and annual events. She is active with her Neighborhood Association and volunteers at a local dog shelter. She resides in Old Hickory with her fiance Danielle and their three rescue dogs: Penni, PJ, and Maisey.